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16 Jan, 2020 02:01

‘Negative’: Audio suggests Delta flight crew told controls it WOULDN’T NEED to dump fuel before dousing school kids outside LA

‘Negative’: Audio suggests Delta flight crew told controls it WOULDN’T NEED to dump fuel before dousing school kids outside LA

The crew of a Boeing 777 that showered schools outside Los Angeles with jet fuel on Tuesday apparently told controllers they were not going to release the toxic liquid right before they did so, newly released audio suggests.

The plot has thickened in the highly unusual mishap, which saw Delta Airlines Flight 89 dump thousands of gallons of volatile jet fuel on unsuspecting students and staff in five elementary schools and one high school outside Los Angeles on Tuesday.

An audio recording of communications between the LAX airport control tower and the pilots of the Delta flight reveals that air traffic controllers asked the crew twice if they needed to get rid of any excess fuel before making an emergency landing due to an issue with the aircraft’s right engine.

At one point in the exchange – which was surprisingly calm given the circumstances – the controller can be heard asking the pilot if he was going back to the airport “immediately” or whether he needed to “hold and burn fuel.”

Also on rt.com ‘You couldn’t breathe it was so bad’: Eyewitnesses describe horror of LA jet fuel dump which soaked school children

At first, the pilot simply dodged the question, saying that the situation “is not critical” and that he was turning the aircraft back to the airport. As the controller pressed further, he asked one more time: “OK, so you don’t need to hold to dump fuel or anything like that?” The pilot responded with a rather definitive ‘No.’ “NEGATIVE,” he said.

The audio was obtained through LiveATC.ne, a site that provides a live feed of Air Traffic Control communications around the world, and was published in full by the Los Angeles Times.

It remains a mystery what transpired in the next 20 minutes that forced the pilot to make an about-face and jettison the fuel over heavily populated areas – home to multiple elementary schools – with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) now saying that the Delta Flight 89 failed to notify controllers of the move.

“A review of yesterday’s air traffic control communications shows the Delta Flight 89 crew did not tell air traffic control that they needed to dump fuel,” the US aviation watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday, noting that the dump “did not occur at an optimal altitude that would have allowed the fuel to atomize properly.”

While FAA guidelines do not expressly prohibit dropping fuel at such a low altitude – about 2,300 feet at the time of the incident – air controllers typically direct crews to dump it over water or unpopulated terrain. It’s standard practice for pilots to drop fuel at an altitude of over 10,000 feet, which ensures the substance evaporates on its way to the ground.

Also on rt.com VIDEOS show airplane dumping JET FUEL on Los Angeles schools, resulting in 60 injuries

That the move was not per se illegal, however, will likely come as small comfort to dozens of schoolchildren caught off guard and drenched in the toxic downpour. The incident sowed panic on the ground, and led to about 60 people being treated for skin irritation and breathing issues. Some had to be decontaminated with soap and water.

In a statement on Wednesday, Delta, which argued that the fuel dump “was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight,” said it had sent “13 cleaning crews” to assist local authorities in cleansing all contaminated areas around the schools.

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